Wednesday, April 8


Triptych, circa 1999 (digital art)
Currently being restored at Musee Zuckerberg

Suggested head: Poetic justice

By Fayƫ Wachowski-Hong

In certain circles, the exploits of mysterious Facebook guerilla-activist MS are the stuff of legends. Nothing much is known about the artist who finally destroyed the formerly unstoppable social networking site by introducing a virus into its database in 2009.

Upon logging into their accounts, users were greeted not by their homepages, but by rapidly morphing screensaver-like graphics of the grossest kind: exploding jellyfish marinated in tomyam soup, tennis balls sprouting millions of eyeballs complete with luscious lashes and the classic one of Mark Zuckerberg repeatedly superpoking himself while an interrogator asks him to Become A Fan Of Jolin Tsai.

Fed up with the then-controversial redesign of Facebook, users found MS's spam-art to be the last straw. In one day, the site lost 80 per cent of its members. The term Facebook is now commonly used by insiders as shorthand for "rapidly imploding Internet phenomenon".

The plot thickens, however, with the recent discovery of this triptych, which experts believe were executed by MS using very primitive tools (the Paint programme that used to be found on the now-obsolete operating system, Windows) during a bleak winter in Leeds. They were retrieved from a hard drive by a nerdy innkeeper, who believed he was downloading vintage porn.

While MS's Facebook graffitti was the height of gory sophistication (several users lapsed into a catatonic daze at the vividness of the images), this triptych of early works express a very different aesthetic. The bold use of primary colours, the choice of language, a phallic object and nature as elemental, eternal themes and the studied simplicity of the composition - these all indicate a serenity that one would not have expected of the notorious MS.

Art historians will now have to revise their take on the influences and motivation behind the artist who spawned the MySpace vandal, the YouTube destroyer and the various others who formed a generation disillusioned by Web 2.0's failed promises. This glimpse of MS during a phase when the World Wide Web was a space for seemingly innocent doodles cannot help but induce a pang of nostalgia for a simpler time.

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